Airdate: Outrage

This US documentary looks at the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the community they covertly belong to -and the ethics of outing them.

In June 2007, US Senator Larry Craig was arrested for soliciting gay sex from an undercover police officer under the charge of “lewd behaviour.”

The long-serving Senator from Idaho later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of disorderly conduct. He never outed himself as gay, and he didn’t seek re-election in 2008.

But it’s not his sexuality that has attracted public interest so much as his voting track-record on gay rights issues.

Some bloggers have sought to out those whose private sex lives contradict their voting record, especially those in the US Congress.

This documentary, to screen on SBS on the same day that Americans vote in mid-term elections, looks at the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the community they covertly belong to -and it also questions the ethics of outing them.

Directed by Academy Award-nominated Kirby Dick (Twist of Faith), Outrage questions the ethics of outing, and the mainstream media’s complicity in keeping the secrets.

Larry Craig is just the first of many politicians and power brokers highlighted in this doco. Others include former New Jersey Governor James McGreevy, who resigned from office after declaring his homosexuality and an extramarital affair with an adviser.

“You deny this thing but…it comes out in dark places. You begin to believe that it is shameful because, for me, I was acting in shameful ways,” he tells Outrage.

An Outrageous Story: Director Kirby Dick had the idea for Outrage in August 2006, a year before Senator Craig’s arrest. “What was interesting was that everyone across the political spectrum wanted this film to be made,” he says. “This was an issue that people thought the mainstream press was not covering, and they wanted it covered.” – Movieline.com interview

One of the most prominent ‘outers’, blogger Michael Rogers, justifies his actions saying: “I’m going to tell people who these horrible traitors are – and they are traitors to their people, I believe that – and I felt that it was time for me to start reporting that hypocrisy”.

He’s backed up by Michelangelo Signorile, a radio broadcaster who used to work for mainstream gossip magazines, and says they’re complicit in the secret-keeping.

“It was the one area where they [gossip magazines] didn’t demand the truth. Everywhere else they wanted to know who was dating who, but when it came to gay celebrities it was accepted and understood that you covered for them. And you actually put out lies”.

Outrage acknowledges the reasons why homosexuality is a secret on Capitol Hill – if word gets out you can lose your family, your job, your power, your seat in Congress.

“I think outing is a fundamentally wrong and dishonest thing to do,” one man outed by Rogers says. “No one can ever know or understand the personal journey that an individual takes to accepting the fact that they are gay or lesbian.”

But the doco argues that outing is justified because the laws and policies these people seek to make and enforce are hurting the gay community and in some cases – particularly with AIDS policy – are killing them.

With analysis from prominent members of America’s gay community, Outrage also probes the psychology of living a double lifestyle, the movie serving as a warning to all closeted gay people in the public eye.

It airs at 10pm Tuesday November 2nd on SBS ONE.

5 Responses

  1. This sounds really interesting. I hope I remember when it’s on. I’m generally not in favour of outing anyone, celebrity or not. It’s a very personal decision which shouldn’t be forced. However, if someone is *actively* working against the gay community in public, and doing damage to that community then they probably deserve to be called out on their hypocrisy.

  2. I saw this at the Melbourne International Film Festival a couple of years ago and it is a fantastic documentary. It manages to highlight the hypocrisy of the politicians involved in voting against gay issues as well as the struggle that some of them have to reconcile their sexuality with the positions they hold.

    It’s definitely worth viewing.

  3. It shouldn’t matter what type of garage you like to park your car in. The trouble for anyone thinking of going into mainstream politics is that there is entrenched anti-homosexual sentiment within certain sections of of the voting community. You can understand why they might wish to hide the fact that they’re gay.

    The difficulty, particularly for members of conservative parties, comes when it’s time to vote on legislation specifically relating to GLBT issues. Do they go with the flow or draw attention to themselves? What is the morality of “outing” a gay member who has voted against improving gay rights? I think most people would feel that it’s ok to publicise the hypocrisy of an elected official in other matters but this isn’t quite as straight forward.

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